Bot­tas favourite to re­place Kimi at Fer­rari

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

Fer­rari claim un­der­per­form­ing Räikkö­nen’s fu­ture is “in his own hands” as they con­sider their op­tions for 2016

Wil­liams driver Valt­teri Bot­tas has emerged as the lead­ing con­tender for a race seat at Fer­rari next year, should the Scud­e­ria choose to drop Kimi Räikkö­nen.

As F1 Rac­ing went to press, Fer­rari were in­sist­ing that “noth­ing had changed” with re­gard to their 2016 driver line-up. That is a ref­er­ence to a public state­ment from Fer­rari pres­i­dent Ser­gio Mar­chionne that Räikkö­nen’s fu­ture “is in his own hands”, in the con­text of the team’s de­sire for him to up his game and be con­sis­tently closer to team-mate Se­bas­tian Vet­tel, par­tic­u­larly in qual­i­fy­ing.

Fer­rari have an op­tion to re­tain Räikkö­nen for 2016, but have not yet de­cided whether to take it. Af­ter show­ing in­ter­est in Bot­tas last year, their fo­cus then switched to Daniel Ric­cia­rdo, and they made a ten­ta­tive at­tempt to prise him away from Red Bull in 2014. Ric­cia­rdo signed a new con­tract with Red Bull over the win­ter, com­mit­ting him to the team un­til the end of 2018. Buy­ing him out would be ex­tremely ex­pen­sive and difcult.

Wil­liams, how­ever, are be­lieved to have de­cided that they will sell Bot­tas, for whom they have an op­tion, for the right price. But the two teams have reached an im­passe in ne­go­ti­a­tions and Fer­rari have de­cided to de­lay a de­ci­sion on Räikkö­nen’s fu­ture un­til later in the sum­mer.

If Bot­tas leaves for Fer­rari, a pos­si­ble re­place­ment would be Jen­son But­ton. The 2009 world cham­pion is un­der op­tion to McLaren for 2016, but there is no guar­an­tee they will keep him on along­side Fer­nando Alonso. McLaren have three op­tions al­ready un­der con­tract – Jen­son But­ton, re­serve driver Kevin Mag­nussen and Bel­gian ris­ing star Stof­fel Van­doorne – and have not yet de­cided whether they will go for the ex­pen­sive proven op­tion in But­ton, or a cheaper one with a longer po­ten­tial fu­ture.

Wil­liams also have for­mer Fer­rari racer Felipe Massa un­der op­tion for next sea­son, and are keen to keep him on.

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